Friday, March 4, 2011

The Fierce, Relentless Love of the Divine She-Bear (Ash Wednesday)

“We entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God . . . Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation!”
- 2 Corinthians 5:20b-6:10

If you’ve ever watched The Wild Kingdom or Animal Planet or some equivalent you know that you never want to get between a she-bear and her cub. The she-bear loves the cub. The she-bear desires for the cub to grow to maturity. The she-bear will protect the cub.

In dealing with our sin, the God we know through Jesus Christ is like a she-bear dealing with whatever comes between her and her cub. God, like that she-bear, loves each of us, desires our good and opposes anything that comes between us and him.

The hard part is that very often what comes between us and God is ourselves, or at least ways of being to which we have grown almost inextricably attached. We can expect that when the Great She-bear comes after that which is between her and the cub, that part of us that is between our true selves and God might be uncomfortable.

God’s judgment and God’s fierce love are really two sides of the same coin. God is passionately and relentlessly committed to us. And God is passionately – to the point of anger – opposed to all that comes between him and us. That is judgment.

We say in the Creed that Jesus Christ will come again to judge the living and the dead. Jesus comes into the world asking hard questions of what life is about. Where are we headed? To whom or to what are we loyal? How do we treat one another? Do we seek the good of the other, or do we seek to use the other towards whatever good we think is ours? Our answers to those questions matter. We will be judged.

But, we also know that the one who will judge has also come as reconciler. Are the two contradictory? I don’t think so. Because we know Jesus as reconciler, we know something of what it means for him to be judge. We know that Jesus knows us better than we even know ourselves. The one who entered fully into the reality of human life knows each of our lives more deeply than we can hope to know ourselves. And, therefore, when he judges he takes into account all factors, all contingencies. We also know that the one who is the judge is passionately and relentlessly committed to us. Jesus, our reconciler, is on our side. His judgments are in that context.

But if he’s passionately and relentlessly committed to us, he is also, like a she-bear, passionately and relentlessly opposed to all that comes between us and the life he calls us to with his Father. That, of course, is what we call sin – anything that comes between us and God. That is where anger and judgment come in. Love that knows no anger is not real love. If you love someone and they are being hurt, you cannot be dispassionate. If God is dispassionate, or merely sad, when parents abuse their children, or when we abuse one another, or when the poor are oppressed, his love doesn’t mean much. God’s love means that he is fiercely opposed to and angered by those things that separate us from his love and from all others who he loves. He promises to deal with what separates us. Jesus will come again to judge.

The question in Lent is, “Are we going to let Jesus – reconciler and judge – have his way with us or are we going to try to have our way with him?” Jesus will come again to judge. I entreat you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. Now is the acceptable time; now is the day of salvation! During this season of Lent, especially tonight on Ash Wednesday when we are reminded that our time is short and we don’t know how short it is, let us commit ourselves anew to offering up to God whatever it is in us that comes between us and him. Let us avail ourselves to the fierce, relentless love of the Divine She-bear.

1 comment:

aredstatemystic said...

Thanks for this, Father. A great reminder.